How to improve your telephone English
Do you want to be more confident communicating in English on the telephone? Here are some tips and useful expressions to help you develop your telephone skills so you can deal with any call effectively.
1. Ask the person to slow down
There are key expressions you can use if you find it difficult to follow what the other person is saying. For example, “Can you slow down, please?”, “Could you speak up, please?”, “Would you repeat that, please?”, “I’m afraid I‘m not with you”. These help ensure there are no misunderstandings.
2. Practise regularly
Practise with a friend or colleague face-to-face or on the telephone, even if it is only the start and end of conversations. You can also practise by yourself; self-talking is often recommended by polyglots as a very useful language learning technique. You can use your smartphone to record yourself to check your performance.
3. Spell out words and verbalise numbers
Clarify and verify what the other person is saying. Use expressions such as “A for America”, “B for Berlin”, or questions like “Is that thirteen - one three - or thirty – three zero?”
4. Be polite
Avoid using the word “want” and instead employ modal verbs like “could” or “would”. This is especially important when talking with native speakers. Also say “please” and “thank you”. Some useful expressions are “Could you email me the information, please?”, or “Would you contact me as soon as possible, please?”
5. Memorise key expressions
Repeating key expressions to yourself aloud lets your mouth get used to saying them so that using them becomes automatic. Again, recording yourself or asking for a friend’s feedback will allow you to make sure that what you are saying sounds natural and easy to follow. You can also copy good models for correct intonation and stress; maybe a native speaker friend or a non-native speaker with a good level of English can let you record them as a model to copy.
6. Rehearse important calls and make a checklist
If you are feeling anxious ahead of an important call, it is always a good idea to rehearse beforehand. Have a checklist in front of you to remind you of the things that you need to ask or explain.
7. Finally, smile!
Smiling tricks the brain into thinking that you are happy and this will help to calm you down. Research has shown that people can hear if you are smiling.
It is important to remember that everyone has, at some point, had difficulties communicating on the phone. Familiarity and practice are the things which create confidence and a good performance.
Here are some expressions to help you when you are communicating by telephone.
My name is …………..[first introduction]
This is ……………………
Asking to speak to someone
Could I speak to…………., please?
Could you put me through to ……………., please?
Explaining the reason for your call
I’m calling about…to ask about…/to tell you…
The reason I’m calling is…………….
Leaving a message
Could you give him/her a message for me, please?
Could I leave a message?
Would you tell him/her that I’ll call back later?
Suggesting times to meet
Shall we say …?
I look forward to seeing you on Friday at 7 o’clock.
I look forward to hearing from you later today.
Thank you very much for all your help.
Thanks a lot.
[Your name] speaking.
[Your company name] Good morning/afternoon.
Hello, ………….. Nice to hear from you.
How are you?
Asking for the caller’s name
Who’s calling, please?
How can I help you?
What can I do for you?
Taking a message
Could I take a message?
Would you like to leave a message?
Thank you for calling/thanks for calling.
Indicating the end of the call
Speak to you soon.
Here are more useful phrases which can be used:
It’s a bad line. Could I ring you back?
It’s a bad connection. Can I call you back?
The line is engaged/busy.
I’m afraid that you have the wrong number.
Polyglots: people who speak several languages
Misunderstandings: a failure to understand something correctly
Effectively: achieving a desired result
Verbalise: to express in words
Intonation: the rise and fall of the voice when speaking
Checklist: a list of things to remember
Familiarity: something which is well known
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